A photo of Leonard Hyater Jr, wearing a blue collared shirt, gray sweater and checkered scarf.
Jane Cave

Leonard Hyater Jr., 56, is focused on his goals. Nothing, not even homelessness, can stop him from reaching them.  

Hyater sees himself ten years from now being financially secure, going back to school and owning property. Although the future seems distant, he is prepared to do whatever it takes to make his dreams a reality.  

Currently, the former real estate broker is facing his second year in a shelter. His situation is further marred by sleep apnea and what he calls “a difficult family situation.” In spite of these roadblocks, Hyater is working diligently to transform his life for the better.  

“I just want people to know that I’m very determined,” he said. “Once my mind is set on something, it’s set on something.”  

During his time in shelters, Hyater has seen a little bit of everything. Mainly, he has noticed that homeless people are often categorized into one group, causing them all to be perceived and treated negatively. There’s no certain way that a homeless person is supposed to look, he said, recalling a time when someone was surprised because Hyater “didn’t look homeless.”  

Hyater occasionally hears offensive remarks aimed toward homeless people, which he finds particularly distressing. “Nobody has the right to treat someone as less than a human being. Just because you’re homeless, doesn’t mean you’re dirty or scraggly.”  

For this District native, Street Sense has been a major catalyst for improving his situation. Selling papers has allowed Hyater to pay his bills, wash clothes and handle personal matters. “Street Sense is a very informative and beneficial paper,” Hyater said. “Homelessness is not just a D.C. issue — it’s a worldwide one.”  

Hyater is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He hopes that after reaching his goals, he’ll be able to go back to enjoying the little things — something he has not been able to do in a long time.  

Though he plans to improve his current situation, he is not as confident in the District’s plan to absolve homelessness. “The cost of living is going up, but wages are not,” he said.  

Never willing to give up, Hyater encourages those in similar situations to maintain a positive attitude and have faith.  “Be blessed and don’t give up. Whatever you’re going through in life, have courage, and be strong.”